Dale Niles was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in small North Carolina towns. "My dad was a civil engineer who specialized in bridge construction so we always lived near the shore, Virginia Beach, Baltimore and Manteo. When I was in the fourth grade, my Dad changed jobs and our family moved to the foothills of North Carolina. Currently I live in Fayette County, Georgia." Niles' photography looks to "create a legacy of all the sacred and beautiful things that I am privileged to experience in my time here." Work from her series Solidifying Roots was chosen by juror Sam Barzilay to be included in our annual Portfolio exhibition.
How did you first become interested in photography?
I was raised in an a family that was very art oriented. My grandmother was a painter, my Mom painted, worked with collage and was so creative in all her endeavors. I actually began my journey as a painter and I made jewelry. I was always fascinated with cameras and the results of pushing a button. Polaroids came along and then the photos were instant. Amazing! I received my first 35mm film camera in high school. I had one interchangeable lens and I felt so professional but it was not until over 30 years later that I referred to myself as a photographer, an artist.
How has your work changed over time?
In the beginning, I photographed flowers, my friends, items I saw on walks in the woods (as these were my surroundings). Then my children came along and they became the center of my photography. As they became older and had their own interests, I started showing my work publicly. I have changed over time to a place where my photographs reflect subjects that express the fragility of life. This is a catalyst to me.
Who are the people in your series, Solidifying Roots?
In my series, Solidifying Roots, once again my children are the center of my photography. I have chosen items that were among the boxes and boxes of items that were packed up after my parents passed. As all of my children have family names, I paired the items with my child that there was a connection with. This process is a way for me to revisit memories and to share our ancestral history with my children as well as preserve and give new life to these things.
Is there an image in this series that you are most proud of?
There are several favorites but "Aunt Willie's Nursing Cap" is special because of the way the photo came about. It as not what I had originally planned to do that day. Since my children are all adults I have to work with the time they are able to spare. One weekend my daughter came home for a shoot and when she showed up with the end of her blonde hair dyed a strawberry color I was said you knew we were photographing this weekend! What to do?! So I started thinking... I dig through a few items and ran across my great great aunts nursing cap, combined it with one of my Grandmother's paintings for the background, ask my daughter to not wear any makeup as she is very fair and it created a feeling of a Dutch masters painting with a twist of the strawberry hair. This would not have happened otherwise. I love the thought process of a creating.
Each of your photos centers on a specific item, (gun, clock, nursing cap, etc...) How do you choose these objects? And what do you do with these items once they are photographed?
As I go through the items they kind of choose me. A memory surfaces and a thought process begins. There are some items that I have photographed several times and I am not satisfied with it so I redo it until it feels right. Some of the items I keep and some are passed on to my children.
Do you have a dream project you would like to photograph?
At the moment I have several projects going, What Lies Within the eclectic collections of Andrea Noel, and Lives Revised which are montages that I create using several photos that I have taken combined with old family photos and I also have an ongoing series of still life. So to answer your question, I do not have anything else in the waxworks but you never know.
How can people see more of your work?
I have several solo shows coming up: Brickworks Gallery in Atlanta exhibiting Life Revisited on March 16, Arts Clayton in Jonesboro, Georgia exhibiting an assortment of my work on June 1, and Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill, NC exhibiting my series Solidifying Roots on July 1. My work can also be seen at dalenilesphotography.com and my Instagram.